We lose water every day through natural excretory systems such as sweat, breath, and urine. It’s critical that you take in enough water each day to stave off dehydration, which occurs when your body loses more fluids than it takes in, leaving cells depleted and unable to properly function.
Fluid loss depends on your level of physical activity and the temperature and humidity of your environment. Acute dehydration can be caused by vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, and excessive sweating during intense physical activity.
What many people don’t know is that you can be chronically dehydrated, especially as humidity and temperatures rise. Chronic dehydration can sap your energy and can be responsible for symptoms such as migraines and other chronic pains, insomnia, lack of mental clarity and concentration, anxiety, and depression. It can even affect your immune system by altering its ability to remove toxins out of the body.
Drinking enough water is the key to staying hydrated. However, lack of water intake isn’t the only cause of chronic dehydration. Some foods, when consumed excessively, can lead to chronic dehydration as well.
CoffeeIt’s well-known that coffee (and caffeinated tea) is a diuretic (it makes you urinate more frequently) and that caffeine speeds up dehydration. These effects are seen when your caffeine intake exceeds 500 milligrams a day, which is about five cups of coffee. However, if you drink more than two cups a day, you should still increase your water intake to prevent imbalance due to fluid loss.
AlcoholAlcohol is also a natural diuretic, which is why when you’re drinking, you have the urge to use the restroom frequently. After a night of drinking, you end up dehydrated, which can explain your headache the next day. Alcohol depletes your cells of water, which is responsible for your lack of energy.
Asparagus (and Other Veggies)This vegetable contains an amino acid called asparagine, which has a diuretic effect. It’s well-known that asparagus alters the odor of urine, but it isn’t as well-known that it can dehydrate. Just eating asparagus as part of a healthy diet won’t dehydrate you because all veggies have water as their main component. But it is important to take into account the diuretic property in asparagus, especially if you’re sick or exposed to an increase in sweating because of external temperature or humidity. Other veggies that also have diuretic properties include parsley, celery, and artichokes.
High-Protein IntakeIf you’re on a high-protein diet, you may end up chronically dehydrated if you don’t increase your water intake. The body has to use more water to metabolize the naturally occurring nitrogen in protein, and cells can become water-depleted. Pay extra attention to cured meats, like bacon or ham, not only because of their protein content, but also because of the extra salt they contain.
Salty FoodsSalty foods increase fluid loss in your body because water is needed to eliminate all the extra sodium naturally present in salt. Foods like soy sauce, popcorn, sausages and fried foods, which have a high content of salt, should be consumed with awareness. This is especially important if you have other conditions—such as heat or humidity, vomiting or diarrhea, a high fever, or taking in elevated amounts of protein—that may be contributing fluid loss. Other foods that may have high-sodium content include fast food, canned or frozen meals, condiments, and salad dressings.
Sugary DrinksA sugary drink can seem refreshing at first. However, drinks with high-sugar content can increase water loss in your body. Sugary drinks create an acidic environment that can impair enzyme function and decrease your body’s water storage capacity, which is necessary to metabolize all the extra sugar. Special attention must be given to sport drinks with sugar because they may make you prone to losing extra fluids.
How Much to Drink?A healthy person should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Increase your water intake during hot weather, illness, while exercising, and if you have dehydrating foods in your diet. If you do consume any of the foods mentioned above, drink at least an extra glass of water to avoid dehydration.
Remember that thirst is a natural instinct created by the communication between your brain and all the cells in your body. It’s a signal the body uses to let us know that our cells are getting depleted and we need to take in more water. As Ayurveda teaches, always listen to your body and drink extra water when you feel thirsty.